SPRINGFIELD (ILLINOIS CAPITOL BUREAU) -- A Rockford senator says Illinois already has a law in place that could have helped ease the pain for businesses and employees during this pandemic. Former Governor Pat Quinn signed Sen. Steve Stadelman's "Work Share" plan into law in 2014, but the Rauner administration never had interest in implementing it. Now, the lawmaker is urging Gov. JB Pritzker to write the necessary rules to provide Illinoisans much-needed relief.
Stadelman says employers struggling in a weak economy could have temporarily reduced hours for workers instead of laying them off. Those employees would be able to collect partial unemployment benefits while staying on the job part-time.
The Democrat says it could be a "triple win" for government since businesses would be able to keep staff, employees get to keep their jobs part-time, and the state would save money that would have gone to laid off workers. "It's just unfortunate that the previous administration did not fully implement the rules," Stadelman said. "Now, since we're in an economic downturn, businesses can take advantage of work share. They've not been able to do so."
"Tap into more federal money"
The work share plan would offer partial unemployment benefits if a business cut hours for at least 10% of its staff, sharing the remaining work among affected employees. According to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, Stadelman's law could have prevented up to 124,000 layoffs related to COVID-19. The Institute also says the plan could have saved over $1 billion in unemployment insurance payments.
"It's disappointing that during this economic downturn, there weren't more businesses made aware of the work share program that were able to take advantage of it," added Stadelman. "Plus, we need to be able to tap into more federal money as much as possible to help with our state financial situation as well."
Stadelman says Illinois could take advantage of millions of dollars in federal reimbursement for states with work share programs. Similar plans are already in place in 29 states and the District of Columbia.